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Northrop Grumman to build football field-sized hybrid airship

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June 16, 2010

 Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV)

Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV)

Not so long ago it seemed that the golden age of giant lumbering airships had gone down with the Hindenberg, consigned to less spectacular roles in research, advertising and as a great camera platform above sporting events... but they're making a comeback. Lighter-than-air aircraft are returning to passenger carrying roles in tourism and in recent years we've seen a new-generation of airships put forward as a cargo-lifting solution (DARPA's now seemingly shelved Walrus Project) and even as a corporate air yacht (Aeroscraft ML866). Now the U.S. Army is moving quickly to build a hybrid airship weapons system that will act as a long-duration UAV – a very big, long duration UAV. The Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) will be longer than a football field and stay aloft at altitudes of 20,000 feet for more than three weeks at a time providing an "unblinking eye" for surveillance and reconnaissance.

Northrop Grumman has been awarded a US$517 million contract to develop the massive airship and present it for military assessment in just 18 months. The company is developing the LEMV to plug straight into the the Army's existing ground command centers and will provide flight and ground control operations. According to the company release, the LEMV will "operate within national and international airspace" from "austere operating locations using beyond-line-of-sight command and control."

"This opportunity leverages our longstanding leadership positions in developing innovative unmanned air vehicles, C4ISR weapon systems, and leading edge systems integration, and moves Northrop Grumman into this rapidly emerging market space of airships for the military and homeland defense arenas," said Gary Ervin, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector.

Northrop Grumman is partnering with Hybrid Air Vehicles, Warwick Mills, ILC Dover, AAI Corporation and SAIC on the project.

About the Author
Noel McKeegan After a misspent youth at law school, Noel began to dabble in tech research, writing and things with wheels that go fast. This bus dropped him at the door of a freshly sprouted Gizmag.com in 2002. He has been Gizmag's Editor-in-Chief since 2007.   All articles by Noel McKeegan
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8 Comments

Hi folks,

This LEMV contract for the US Army is great news for any lighter than air fan who wants to see a return of big airships. It is very good they have chosen Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) in Cardington England to design and build the first prototype airship in the old hangar that was used by the R101. The HAV design team are the same folks that were behind the Skyship 600, Sentinel 1000 and AT10 blimps that were a big success.

If you want to see more on modern airships, past, present and future see: www.airshipblimp.com or if you just want a helium sniffing laugh try www.airship.me the worlds only lighter than air comedy site, with lots of funny pictures and U tube links fit for all the family.

Regards Bond, James Bond.

(Skyship blimp pilot in a View to a Kill)

skyship007
16th June, 2010 @ 06:06 am PDT

It was calle the HindenbUrg, not the HindenbErg.

I wonder, since airships are comparably slow and this one in particular is very large, wouldnt that make it an easy target?

Skipjack
16th June, 2010 @ 06:28 am PDT

walrus never made any sense. heavy lifting? please.

surveillance/communications blimps have made since every since balloons were originally used for spying. i understand there is a need for geostationary satellites in hostile locations as blimps are sitting ducks, but with modest investment, the military can deploy a slew of stationary eyes in the sky for far less money in non-hostile locations, this has been obvious for years. what's surprising is that they haven't built them faster.

perhaps the most realistic obstacle is that they have to be designed to be robust at high altitutude so that they can cover a large radius and be high up enough in the atmosphere to be remote from rockets and cheap missiles/airplanes, as well as storms. also, they need to be able to remain aloft for extended periods, meaning they must deploy efficient fuel cells or use solar/wind power to charge their batteries.

either way, that could be what's holding this up.

Facebook User
16th June, 2010 @ 01:00 pm PDT

Personally I am a big fan of airships, but from what is described I would imagine there must be better solutions for the Army. I visited the Florida Keys in 1995 and they had a big blimp called "Fat Albert" tethered offshore with onboard surveillance to watch out for smugglers, and I imagine it may still be aloft after all these years. For the Army craft, at that size and at only 20,000 ft I guess it would be a pretty easy target if its surveillance subject didn't feel like being watched. I thought spy satellites could read license plates from orbit?

Grunchy
17th June, 2010 @ 12:00 am PDT

Aerostats are in wide use in Iraq and Afghanistan etc as well as on the US borders as surveillance platforms. They are quite safe since the US controls its airspace and the higher they fly, the safer they are as well as providing a greater range at which to surveil. Expect to see wide use of LTA airships in the near future for heavy cargo transport as fuel becomes more precious. Maybe use as passenger transport is a possibility too.

Grunchy... satellites are hi-res, but they are not a persistent platform because they need to keep moving to stay in orbit. Not very useful for real-time threat detection. Many companies are working to develop LTA platforms, such as Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Check them out.

JLR
17th June, 2010 @ 11:00 am PDT

They will call it "The Bullet Eater" ;)

ungerik
18th June, 2010 @ 01:22 am PDT

Hi folks,

I have changed my domain names as follows:

Airship & Blimp Consultant: www.hybridairship.net

Gasbags comedy site: www.hybridblimp.net

Circumnavigation proposal: www.blimpingaround.com

Regards JB

skyship007
14th November, 2010 @ 01:31 am PST

Hybrid Air Vehicles have now signed a contract with Discovery Air from Canada to build upto 45 HAV 366's which are much larger than the LEMV and designed for heavy lift and long range point to point cargo operations.

Regards JB (Airship & Blimp Consultant www.hybridairship.net & Gasbags comedy www.hybridblimp.net

Trevor Hunt
28th August, 2011 @ 01:28 pm PDT
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